Hall of Fame coach Jim Robarts dies at 81

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Jim Robarts, whose high school basketball coaching career spanned six decades and produced more than 700 victories, died Friday. He was 81.

Robarts is best known for his stints as head coach at Archbishop Rummel and East Jefferson, where he guided five of his teams to the state tournament.

“You have to have good players,” Robarts said in his 2019 acceptance speech upon induction into the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. “Good players make good coaches.”

He arrived at Rummel in 1969 and led the Raiders to three appearances in what is now known as “Marsh Madness” and back-to-back Class AAAA state championships in 1977 and 1978.

His 1972 team, led by future Tulane standout Jeff Cummings at center, got to the finals against Woodlawn-Shreveport, which was led by 7-foot-1 Robert Parish, who would eventually become a Naismith Hall of Famer.

Parish fouled out in the fourth quarter, but the Raiders could not connect on a handful of chances in the waning moments and Woodlawn prevailed 50-49.

Five years later, Rummel got back to the state tournament. In the 1977 final against an undefeated DeRidder team playing a de facto home game in Lake Charles, Robarts’ Raiders won 52-48.

With the stars of that team – shooting guard Wade Blundell, center Dean Carpenter and point guard Barry Barocco – all returning for the 1977-78 season, the Raiders strung together win after win to get back to the state tournament, two wins from a repeat title.

Its toughest test of the year would come in a 52-51 victory over Carroll in the semifinals. Rummel rolled to an 83-64 victory over Fair Park in the championship to complete a 34-0 season.

Over a three-season span, Rummel compiled a 50-game winning streak.

Robarts moved his work address about a mile west in 1988 when he became head coach at East Jefferson, which would be his home for the next 15 seasons. His greatest successes with the Warriors came in 1994 and 1995, when his teams, led by guard Neil Reed, reached the state semifinals.

Prior to coming to New Orleans, Robarts spent three seasons as head coach of Jesuit of Shreveport (now Loyola Prep}. He also had one-year head coaching stints at Haynes Academy and Archbishop Shaw and served as an assistant at Loyola University and at St. Martin’s Episcopal, when he had the opportunity to coach his grandson.

In 39 years as a head coach, Robarts compiled a career record of 714-381.

Robarts called another legendary New Orleans-area coach, Kevin Trower, one of his biggest influences. “He not only told me what to coach, but how to coach it,” Robarts said. “If I had any X and O questions, I would go to him.”

Robarts also is a member of the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and the Rummel Athletic Hall of Fame.

In 2015, the floor inside Rummel’s gymnasium was renamed Jim Robarts Court.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be a coach,” Robarts said in his hall of fame acceptance speech. “God blessed me.”

Visitation is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 18, from 10 a.m.-noon at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, with a funeral mass to follow. Interment will be private.

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Lenny Vangilder


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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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